I found myself quoting this brief little book AGAIN last night with a friend, so I’m dropping you a brief summary, more as a devotional thought than a book report, or even a commendation to read it …
May these brief thoughts stimulate you today, in your genuine desire to minister in the name of Jesus, to be compelled and empowered by His transforming love, and whenever possible, to minister together with another fellow laborer in the harvest. –Tom M
This very short book is entitled In the Name of Jesus, by the late Henri Nouwen.
Seciton I. From relevance to prayer (on intimacy with God)
According to Nouwen, he was, and we can be, praying poorly, isolated from people, preoccupied with issues, and suppressing the Holy Spirit. If you can relate to that at some level, his counsel was to “Live among the poor in spirit; they will heal you.” I have applied his counsel to my own life many times and would echo it as good medicine for my own soul and ministry.
One convicting admonition from this segment of his book is that “busyness does not equal fruitfulness!” He makes a convicting point: beneath the accomplishments and productivity of our time can be a deep despair.
He encourages us to ask ourselves such penetrating questions as: “Am I truly in love with Jesus?” “Do I know His heart?” “His love?” (John 21:15-17) And subsequently, I ask myself, is this blatantly obvious to those whose paths I intersect on a daily basis? On the subject of prayer, how does my prayer life keep me from being pulled from one urgent issue to another – something I am so very susceptible to in my role and in the way that God has wired me.
Section II. From popularity to ministry (relationships and vulnerability)
Nouwen makes the assertion, “Ministry is a communal and mutual experience.” One of the most memorable questions he poses, and the subject of my conversation with my pastor friend last night, is,
“How hard is it to be truly faithful to Jesus when I am alone? When we minister together, it is easier for people to recognize that we do not come in our own name, but IN THE NAME OF JESUS.”
In light of this insight, I celebrate the increasing number of instances when I am able to minister in a team, and I try to genuinely reduce those times when I must enter into complex ministry situations solo.
Similarly, “How can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not in a deep relationship?” He points out, “We ourselves are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much as anyone else.” ”If we are not known and loved, ‘shepherding’ becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian, dictatorial traits.”
Nouwen suggests that “confession and forgiveness overcome the temptation toward individual heroism.”
He further states that “spiritual leaders are subject to raw carnality… not living the truth of the incarnation.” And: “When spirituality becomes spiritualization, life in the Body becomes carnality.”
Section III. From leading to being led (overcoming the temptation to become powerful)
“Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love.” “Much (Christian) leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships, and have opted for power and control instead.” I find this to be sadly true in too many of the situations I’m called into. This may need to be the topic of another “On Our Hearts” to do justice to it.